Wednesday, 21 March 2018 12:23

Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism


Manipulation is a form of abuse. However, many of us lack sufficient self-defence training to recognise and resist it. In fact, most of the time, we do not even notice that we are manipulated and deceived.

Within Get the Trolls Out, our monitors have detected about 200 antisemitic media incidents in 5 European countries (Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary and the United Kingdom). Anti-Jewish hatred is spread through manipulation, through a tricky language mostly, which can effectively influence people.

Relying on examples of antisemitism uncovered by our monitors, our Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism teaches you the most common hidden linguistic mechanisms that you can come across in antisemitic speech. Here are a number of tricks to look out for in order to protect yourself and avoid falling victim to manipulation.   

usandthem 1. Watch Out for Personal Pronouns!  [FR] [EL] [HU]

When we hear or read that someone refers to groups, communities, or cultures by plural personal pronouns ("they" and "we") and says offensive remarks, we should be cautious. As this article shows, plural personal pronouns can be deceptive. You can find the French version of this article here.

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2. Soros and Rothschild [FR] [EL] [HU]

By referring to Soros and Rothschild some speakers use an old rhetorical trick which allow them to voice anti-Jewish hatred and, at the same time, deny antisemitism. Through this rhetorical trick, called synecdoche, we talk about the whole by referring only to a part of it. Soros and “the Rothschilds”, affluent and influential individuals of Jewish descent, often represent the part which stands for the whole (Jews in general) and are used with antisemitic purposes.

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3. Victim- Abuser Reversal [FR] [EL] [HU]

Antisemitism discriminates against Jews simply because they are Jews. However, the idea of victimising a group of people just because of their ethnic background may sound too overtly racist to many. To avoid this, in antisemitic speech, manipulative rhetorical devices are used to justify the loathing of Jews. One of them, the victim-abuser reversal, creates the false impression that the real victims of antisemitism, Jewish people, are actually not victims but abusers. By suggesting that Jewish people are dangerous, harmful and evil, the victim-abuser reversal gives justification for verbal and physical aggression against Jews.

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4. Meaning without saying [FR] [EL] [HU]

It is possible to say things without actually saying them. On such occasions, messages are only suggested, conveyed — or, implicated instead of being directly expressed. Politicians and the media use implications too, which can be misused both in private and public speech. Through implications, speakers may — intentionally or unintentionally — voice unpleasant, controversial, derogatory, and abusive messages with impunity.

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5. Downplaying and Denying the Holocaust [FR] [EL] [HU]

Although our knowledge of the genocide of six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators is based on historical evidence, in antisemitic speech, the mass murder is often downplayed and denied. In this article we review the most common forms of manipulation that are used to minimise or deny the genocide. 

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6. Manipulation through Human Rights [FR] [EL] [HU]

In antisemitic speech, human rights values are represented in a manipulative fashion. Speakers who spread anti-Jewish hatred, routinely misuse the arguments of those institutions and individuals who respect and protect human rights. By misrepresenting the claims of real human rights defenders, antisemites aim to create the false impression that Jews violate the basic liberties of non-Jews.

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7. 'The Jew' and 'A Jew' [FR] [EL] [HU]

In antisemitic speech, you can often hear the words “the Jew” or “a Jew”. Although it may seem so, in this way speakers do not refer to individuals alone. In antisemitic discourses, the references to “the Jew” or “a Jew” are references to all Jewish people.

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8. The Israel-synecdoche [FR] [EL] [HU]

Any country can be criticized for its domestic or foreign policies. Nevertheless, in the case of Israel, a state of which majority of population is Jewish, the real purpose of the criticism of the country can also be the spread of antisemitism. This happens when instead of meaningful critique, anti-Jewish clichés are evoked in the context of the Jewish state. 

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9. Derogatory, abusive labels [FR] [EL] [HU]

The way we identify others has important implications. In antisemitic speech, references are made to Jewish people in a derogatory and abusive fashion. The list of discriminatory labelling is almost endless. In this article we introduce the most common, but rhetorically tricky labelling strategies.

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10. Faking Heroism [FR] [EL] [HU]

Although there is nothing heroic about fuelling hate and discrimination, many are lured into antisemitism because it is falsely represented by its spreaders as extreme courageousness.


Our expert 

Anna Szilagyi is the author of the “Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism”. She holds a Ph.D. in Media and Communication and studies the language of political propaganda and discrimination. She is a multilingual researcher whose writings have appeared in international academic journals and volumes.

Full guide

If you prefer to read the guide as a whole instead of as separate articles you can download the full "Linguistic Self-Defence Guide Against Antisemitism" as a pdf below here in the attachments. The full guide is available in English, French, Greek, and Hungarian.

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